Entry Title: "TYPHOON HAYAN, THE AFTERMATH"
Name: Javier Sanchez-Monge Escardo , Spain
Category and Expertise: Environmental|Photo Essay and Feature Story|Deeper Perspective, Professional
Entry Description: These images show the apocalyptic consequences of Hayan, the biggest typhoon in the history of the Philippines, trying to reflect different aspects of the tragedy, such as the survivors looking for water or food amidst the devastation, soldiers trying to stop the looting and rioting, the desperate fight of the survivors over the food that was downloaded from US helicopters, the thousands of evacuees waiting for days and nights to be evacuated to Manila, or the eerie silence and calmness before the ocean while hundreds of bodies gathered by the fishermen floated before being taken to the mass graves.
Story: In the morning of the 8 of November 2013, at 5am local time in the Philippines, the Category 5 Super typhoon Hayan (Yolanda) struck the Philippines with its winds reaching 170 mph, provoking almost 7000 casualties and around 2000 people missing. It was the deadliest typhoon recorded in the history of the Philippines, and the damage was estimated in $1.5 billion (2013 USD).
During the aftermath, I boarded onto a military plane with destination to the airport of Tacloban managing to join US helicopter flights delivering relief aid, body rescue teams (land and water) and medical teams. The whole ordeal was not only one story of sheer horror but a story of beautiful human values of heroism and solidarity, and this sequence wants to honor all of those heroic and solidary Philipinnos and foreigners who went there to help despite the risk and the pain.
At first, the people were wandering about like lost souls, without any water or food, in desperation to help the wounded or their beloved ones, and since they had no supplies or shelter; they couldn’t have time to mourn their dead or to search for their bodies; everything had turned into a matter of desperate survival. This extreme situation was followed by the looting of stores and supermarkets, and the violence escalated due to the arrival by boat of specialized organized gangs of looters from different parts of the country to steal more valuable items. On the other hand, all the inmates of the Kashuagan Penal Colony - many of them convicted murderers- had been released during the typhoon, so the extreme chaos encouraged the authorities to send over more than 2000 policemen, military and special forces to the area, enforcing a curfew.
The bodies were found everywhere, many trapped into the debris and others floating in the ocean or deposited along the streets in body bags, and being so many there was an initial body bag shortage. At the coast, I witnessed kids playing together close to the drowned bodies, unable or unwilling to understand the real magnitude of the tragedy.
The temporary shelters stood everywhere, inside stores, schools or churches ,and the people gathered together praying , giving hope to each other and asking if anyone had seen alive some of their disappeared beloved ones. At the medical units the doctors worked endlessly to save the wounded, and medical mobile units continuously handed out medicines to prevent spreading epidemics.
While delivering relief aid, some helicopters got assaulted , and the people at the most isolated areas fought violently to reach the goods. Soon after, many typhoon victims queued for days under the sun and rain of the devastated Tacloban airport waiting for a flight to an evacuation center in Manila, becoming refugees in their own country. Many others chose to remain and build again their homes out of the pieces of debris that the typhoon had left behind in the hope of carrying on again with what was left of their lives.